If you plan on going to college — go away. Growing up in a college town has led to frequent field trips to college campuses all throughout K-12 schooling, assemblies and talks led by familiar professors and seeing far too many recognizable faces during trips to Wegmans. When applying to colleges during senior year of high school, there are so many factors that students must consider — price, programs, people and perception are some of the most noteworthy factors in a college, and location is sometimes deemed less important. Granted, all students are different and are looking for different things if they are considering college, but location should be emphasized more.
My time spent in Ithaca as a college student has often felt stifling and underwhelming, primarily a result of being a “townie,” or someone who attends college or university in the same town that they are originally from. Seeing my peers going off to college in different cities across the state, coast and even country led to some questions about what I was doing and why I felt stuck in my rural hometown. During a time when exploration is inevitable, there have been moments in which self-reflection and growth have felt nearly impossible because of my surroundings. The feeling of intense surveillance, a result of knowing people (or knowing of people) in what feels like most areas of town, is tiring and draining.
See, there aren’t many opportunities in life in which you are in a fixed environment that exists for you to explore, be dumb, meet new people, explore any and all interests, learn and reflect. Truly pushing yourself to be uncomfortable in your surroundings is an important skill that can be ignited and fostered during college. With the safety blanket that comes along with the “student” label, college is the perfect environment to actually fully live in the moments of young adulthood.
With all of that being said, I often wish I had gone away for college. More specifically, I wish that I had access to the knowledge about the opportunities that were available at other institutions that I am only finding out about years after my application cycle.
For high school students, there are so many resources available, but it takes strategy in order to know where to look and how to find them — especially when it comes down to factors like the cost of attendance. Sticker prices for colleges in the United States are extremely intimidating, often unimaginable, and can be the sole reason for why students are unable to experience their full potential during their years in college. Especially now, in the middle of a pandemic, the price of college is difficult to justify. However, in an ideal world where there isn’t a contagious virus circulating (and college is much more affordable), going away for college should be strongly encouraged.
Factors such as diversity (beyond racial diversity and including socioeconomic, religious, gender, ability, sexuality, etc.), institutional goals and values, and overall campus life were never on my radar as a high schooler. If I could go back in time, I would have taken a much more strategic and diversified approach at looking into the institutions I applied to, trusted myself and taken more leaps of faith, which all prospective college students should do.